From 2016-2017 I held a series of informal talks with Law Deans at the major Australian Universities. These discussions were all held off-the-record, hence the names of specific deans and schools will be omitted from this article.
What I can report are the broad trends in thinking at the top of law schools, and various ideas supported by the majority of law deans in private.
Here are my findings:
- A majority of Law Deans want to abolish the Priestley Eleven.
- A majority of Law Deans believe that teaching black letter law and the case method alone are inadequate teaching methods.
- A majority of Law Deans are aware of other countries (the UK, US and Canada) outpacing Australia in innovation in law schools.
- A majority of Law Deans are aware that law should be taught in its proper context, including the study of politics, philosophy of law and the changing nature of law (i.e. Legal Realism).
There is also broad consensus that new subjects should be introduced to law schools, including, but not limited to:
- Statutory Interpretation.
- Legal Philosophy.
- Legal History.
- Legal Technology.
Despite these findings, most law deans remain committed to the status quo and refuse to publicly condemn the current state of legal education in Australia. In particular, they refuse to publicly admit that the Priestley Eleven should be abolished, in favour of other subjects, despite continued insistence of such in private.
I believe that by making these findings public, I can help illuminate the broad consensus of opinions that exist on substantial changes that need to be made to legal education. This consensus is often hidden behind public opinions that contradict what is said in private.
It remains to be seen whether law schools in Australia will follow the rest of the world in reducing compulsory subjects and teaching new subjects that give students a proper and thorough understanding of law today.
For more, see my book: